SpaceX's Crew-3 astronaut mission is headed home to Earth.
Crew-3's Dragon capsule, named Endurance, undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday (May 5) at 1:20 a.m. EDT (0520 GMT), ending the mission's six-month stay aboard the orbiting lab.
Endurance and its four passengers — NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Raja Chari and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency — have a roughly 24-hour space journey ahead of them for the trip to Earth. They're scheduled to splash down off the Florida coast Friday (May 6) at 12:43 a.m. EDT (0443 GMT). You can watch their homecoming on Space.com when it happens.
In photos: SpaceX's Crew-3 astronaut launch for NASA
SpaceX launched the Crew-3 astronauts on a Falcon 9 rocket on Nov. 11, with Endurance arriving at the station that same day. The four astronauts had a very eventful half-year in orbit, working on hundreds of different science investigations and conducting three spacewalks. (Marshburn and Barron ventured outside the ISS on Dec. 2, Barron and Chari did so on March 15, and Chari and Maurer conducted a spacewalk on March 22.)
The Crew-3 astronauts also witnessed history last month with the arrival of Ax-1, the first-ever all-private crewed mission to the ISS. Ax-1, which was organized by Houston company Axiom Space and flown by SpaceX, sent four people to the orbiting lab for a two-week stay on April 9.
SpaceX's Crew-4 mission arrived at the ISS on April 27, just three days after Ax-1's departure. The Crew-4 astronauts are expected to spend six months aboard the orbiting lab, the normal stint for professional astronauts.
Crew-3 was the first spaceflight for Barron, Chari and Maurer and the third for Marshburn. Marshburn served as commander of the orbiting outpost's current Expedition 67; he officially handed the reins of the ISS over to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev during a change-of-command ceremony on Wednesday afternoon (May 4)
As its name suggests, Crew-3 is the third operational astronaut mission that SpaceX has flown to the ISS for NASA. Boeing holds a similar NASA contract, which it intends to fulfill using its CST-100 Starliner capsule.
Starliner is gearing up for a crucial uncrewed test flight to the orbiting lab, which is scheduled to launch on May 19. If all goes well with that mission, known as Orbital Flight Test 2, the capsule will likely be cleared to start carrying astronauts in the near future.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.